Should You Bottle-Feed Older Children?

Little Juliana is a joyous sight to behold as she runs around Christ the King church compound her cute colourful dress lifts the spirits and the ring of her innocent laughter is infectious.

But when her mother hands her a drink, Juliana, who looks about two years old, draws some odd looks. Why would a child her age drink from a baby’s feeding bottle?

Other than being considered an oddity, is it aisable to bottle-feed a child (four months and above) who no longer heavily relies on their sucking reflexes and can ably drink?

Dental carries and illnesses:

Dr Diana Nasike, who has previously worked with children at Mulago hospital, says the risks involved in bottle-feeding are minimal and so a mother may do as they please.

“It is harder to keep bottles clean, posing a threat of sanitation-related illnesses [such as diarrhoea],” Nasike says. “Other than that, a bottle will not hurt the child in any way.”

Leonia S. Mbabazi, an assistant dentist at Victoria university health centre, however, says that bottle-fed children are at an increased risk of poor dental health, particularly early childhood carries (ECC), necessitating introduction of cup-feeding as soon as a child can use a cup.

“Early childhood carries can result from a child’s teeth being exposed to sweet drinks over a period of time,” Mbabazi says.

Bottle-feeding, which allows for comfort sucking (such as when a baby is crying and you put the bottle into its little mouth, and leave it there till the baby falls asleep) could result in a child’s teeth being exposed to sugary drinks over long periods of time, putting them at risk of ECC.

Information on the UK’s National health services website backs Mbabazi.

“Using an open cup or a free-flow cup without a valve will help your baby learn to sip rather than suck, which is better for their teeth. Comfort sucking on sweetened drinks is the biggest cause of tooth decay in young children,” reads the information on nhs.uk.

When to introduce cups:

Should you decide to introduce cups, it is best to do so after a baby is three months old Ugandan parents usually introduce cups at four months. At three months and below, a baby’s sucking reflexes are g, making it difficult to introduce cup-feeding.

Source : The Observer

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